Nightmares and Night Terrors in Children

As a parent, you always want to protect your child from harm and fear. Unfortunately, while your child sleeps, their own brain can play tricks with them and present them with scary images or experiences in the form of nightmares and night terrors.


Discover more about these interesting occurrences and how your child can cope with nightmares and night terrors.


Nightmares vs night terrors


Is your child having nightmares, or night terrors?


Nightmares are vivid and upsetting dreams that occur during REM sleep. When a dream is scary, your child is more likely to wake up during the middle of it, which means they’re more likely to remember details of the dream. Having a few nightmares are perfectly normal, but often occur if your child feels anxious or has seen something frightening.

Night terrors, on the other hand, are when your child shouts, thrashes about, kicks or screams during their sleep as though they’re afraid. Some children when sit upright with their eyes open, but they’re actually asleep and cannot be woken up. Night terrors occur during non-REM sleep, usually within the first few hours of sleep.

Your child will usually have no memory of their night terrors, except for maybe a vague feeling of unease or fear. Night terrors can last for 10-30 minutes and afterward the child will usually continue to sleep undisturbed. Around 3% of children aged 4-12 experience night terrors, and it’s more likely if other family members also experience them.


sleepezi children nightmare


If your child has nightmares


If your child has a nightmare, you can:

  • Console them and reassure them they’re safe and the dream wasn’t real.

  • Ask if anything has been worrying them lately, as this may be contributing to nightmares.

  • Enable your child to sleep with a security blanket, stuffed animal friend, or nightlight.

  • Limit the types of media (games, movies, books) your child consumes before bed, so they don’t see anything scary.

  • Use Sleepezi to help create a soothing sleeping environment.

  • Check under the bed and in closets for monsters.

  • See a counsellor if you believe nightmares are related to trauma.


sleepezi children night terror


If your child has night terrors


If you notice your child experiencing a night terror, you should:

  • Wait it out. It’s best not to wake your child up during a night terror.

  • Watch your child and create a safe environment so they don’t hurt themselves. Before they go to bed make sure their toys are packed away, windows and doors are locked, and there’s a gate on any staircases.

  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine free of media that may stimulate fear. Try a relaxing bath, a bedtime story, and a product like Sleepezi to promote healthy sleep.

  • Once the episode is over, it’s safe to wake your child.

  • If your child has night terrors at the same time every night, try waking them up before the edisode is due to occur every night for a week. This will help reduce the frequency of terrors by breaking the cycle.

Even though they can be heartbreaking to watch, neither nightmares nor night terrors should have any long-term psychological effects on your children. If your child’s nightmares or night terrors are occurring often enough to worry you, it’s time you saw a registered health professional.